Jamae Kawauchi Starts New Job As Deputy Prosecutor
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by Dave Smith
There’s a new lawyer in the county Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
And no, we’re not talking about Mitch Roth, who narrowly defeated Lincoln Ashida in the race for prosecutor in last month’s general election. The win moved Roth from a deputy prosecutor position to the county’s top lawyer for criminal matters.
It’s Jamae Kawauchi, the former Hawaii County clerk who gained significant notoriety for her role in unprecedented problems during the Aug. 11 primary election.
“We understand she’s been criticized, but we wish to provide her with a fresh start,” Roth told Big Island Now.
Kawauchi saw some degree of redemption during the Nov. 6 general election when state elections chief Scott Nago — a vocal critic of Kawauchi’s handling of the Hawaii County Elections Division — experienced major problems of his own.
First Deputy Prosecutor Dale Ross confirmed that Kawauchi started her new job as a deputy prosecutor today. She was initially undergoing orientation in Hilo but will be working out of the agency’s Kona office, Ross said.
Ross said like other new deputy prosecutors, Kawauchi will initially be assigned to District Court which deals with such matters as traffic, misdemeanor and criminal violations appearances and bench trials.
Hawaii County’s website said the next stop for deputies is usually Family Court which handles domestic violence and juvenile cases.
“After spending approximately one to two years in these courts, a deputy may thereafter be assigned to Circuit Court work, which includes screening, charging and trying felony and misdemeanor committal cases,” the website said.
Kawauchi today spoke briefly with Big Island Now but declined to comment on her new job or experience with criminal law, saying the policy in the prosecutor’s office is to first get permission from a supervisor before speaking to the media.
According to a resume previously posted on the county’s website, Kawauchi is a graduate of the William S. Richardson law school at the University of Hawaii. The Hawaii State Bar Asssociation said she was admitted to the Hawaii bar, a prerequisite to practice law in this state, in 1999.
Kawauchi served as a law clerk to Third Circuit Court Judge Greg Nakamura from 1998 to 2000, her resume said.
A Harvard University fellow, Kawauchi served as a public policy associate of the Harvard Law School/Harvard Graduate School of Education Civil Rights Project from 2000 to 2002, and as assistant director of the Harvard Medical Harvard Medical School Center of Excellence in Minority Health and Health Disparities from 2002 to 2004.
Following that she spent two years as an associate with Carlsmith Ball LLP, a Honolulu-based law firm with offices in Hilo, Kona, Maui, Los Angeles and Guam; then worked from 2006 to 2008 with Yeh & Moore, a Hilo law firm which specializes in planning issues.
Before being hired by then-County Council Chairman Dominic Yagong as county clerk in 2010, Kawauchi spent two years operating her own law practice. During that period she also served as a member of the County Charter Commission, a panel formed every 10 years to recommend changes to the Hawaii County Charter.